Thursday, 4 December 2008

Living vs working and other false dichotomies

The concept of work is a strange one in our modern, 'enlightened' society. Most people spend the majority of their whole lives working. They wake up each day, drag themselves out of bed and go to work. They work a 9-5 or an 8-6 or whatever set working hours. In their work day, most people spend a fair bit of time doing things unrelated to working - they check facebook, surf the web or chat. And their bosses would be furious if they knew. Because there is a firm belief that all the time between 9 and 5 if owned by the employer and should be spent only doing work things.

So work becomes something that you do between 9 and 5. A whole, lucrative industry of self-help books has developed around how to separate work and home and make sure you don't take work stuff home with you. Work becomes the annoying, horrible, inevitable way you have to spend your day and your life happens outside of working hours. Work become something you resign yourself to. It becomes the drudgery that is a necessary evil. When we talk about people living lives of quiet desperation, the inevitably unhappiness and boredom of work definitely deserves a mention.

I am a problem employee because I don't buy this. I refuse to spend the majority of hours of my life in inevitable, inescapable drudgery. This doesn't mean I won't do admin and write reports and plan and other boring stuff. I even do it voluntarily for ngos. It does mean that I don't do office hours. I'm 100% firmly in the Ricardo Semler camp. I work weekends and evenings and early mornings to get the work done. And then, when I'm not busy and my brain isn't particularly functional, I go to movies on a Tuesday afternoon. I'm so looking forward to next year when my working hours will be morning and evening on an irregular schedule and I'll get the few daylight hours in my new Winter City free. It's perfect!

I also don't understand the paranoia about not taking work home. I suppose this is part of the above - I work at all sorts of times at home and at the office and I'm not sure the two should be separated. I don't think it's a good thing that at 6 o'clock I throw off all work related things and become another person. A friend of mine has a fb status message that says, "go be authentic". Authenticity for me means that there isn't a massive, and false, dichotomy between who I am professionally and who I am personally. The two are parts of the same thing and I like that.

Perhaps I am just an anachronism harking back to the days - not so very many years ago - when work and life, home and office were not so strictly separated, but I refuse to see work as something that I'm forced to do while I wait for the end of the day so that I can go and live. Some people think I'm lazy because I don't want to work a 9-5. They're wrong. So increadibly wrong. I don't want to work a 9-5 because I don't want to grow to hate the place and way I spend the majority of my hours and because productivity happens when you're feeling productive, not when some clock somewhere tells you it's work time. In fact, if I'm completely honest, it's because I love working - I really enjoy it - and stupid rules like working hours and separating work from home just hamper my enjoyment of it and turn it into dreary drudge.

Bring on irregular schedules and free time in the middle of the day. I always want to live my life, whether it's working hours or not.

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